Category Archives: Events

Frits Lugt’s collection

In 1947, Frits Lugt (1884-1970) established the Fondation Custodia in the historic hôtel Lévis-Mirepoix at 121 rue de Lille and endowed it with his entire of collection of paintings, drawings, prints, rare books, artists’ letters, and much more.

In 2015, the Terra Foundation for America Art opened a Center & Library upstairs from the Fondation, including a joint exhibition space and reading room. It appears to be a good collaboration. We were very fortunate to be allowed to tour both, including the Lugt art collection, housed in adjoining rooms in the eighteenth-century Hôtel Turgot.

Lugt, who began collecting in 1915, was a self-taught art historian and author whose books remain standard works to this day. The famous ‘L’ followed by the number Lugt assigned to sale catalogues and collector’s marks is recognized by all art historians.

Princeton University faculty and students have online access to Lugt’s Répertoire des catalogues de ventes publiques, which lists more than 100,000 art sales catalogues of the period 1600 to 1925 from libraries in Europe and the USA, both in French and in English. It can be searched on Lugt number, date, place, provenance, auction house and existing copies.

At the front door, you are greeted by a terra-cotta bust of Jacques Turgot, Baron de l’Aulne (1727-1781), which may have been sculpted by Jean-Antoine Houdon. All along the 18th-century staircase, the walls are filled with Lugt’s collection of painted landscapes.

One of the treasures pulled for us was a 1596 copy of Ludolf van Ceulen (1539-1610), Van den circkel: daer in gheleert werdt te vinden de naeste proportie des circkels-diameter tegen synen omloop, with a portrait of the author on the title page, engraved by Jacques de Gheyn II (1565-1629). Lugt also acquired a proof without lettering and a rare variant. See all three below.

“In the late sixteenth century, especially in the Netherlands, there was a revival of interest in the works of Archimedes. Van Ceulen was a part of this Archimedean renaissance, and early in his career, he read a translation of Archimedes’ treatise, Measuring the Circle. In this work, Archimedes estimated the value of pi by calculating the circumferences of polygons that just fit inside and outside the circle, reasoning (correctly) that the circumference of the circle must lie between those two values. Using polygons of up to 128 sides, Archimedes found that pi must lie between (using modern notation) 3.141 and 3.142. Van Ceulen found a way to increase the number of sides of the inscribed polygons from 128 to well into the millions, and he initially found a value of pi accurate to 20 decimal places. This number was engraved just below his portrait on the title page of his first book, Van den Circkel (1596).”

Musée du quai Branly

The Musée du quai Branly holds almost 370,000 works of art and 700,000 iconographical images (photographs) originating in Africa, the Near East, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. The work is considered for its aesthetic value, not its ethnographic appeal (that work is currently at the Musée de l’Homme). The walk up to the front door is made through a dense forest of trees and grasses, with the Eiffel Tower seen around the corner of the building.
The Jacques Kerchache Reading Room on the top floor of the museum holds over 100 researchers at one time, tempting them with a view as far as the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Public spaces throughout the building are decorated with pieces from the museum collection.

The collection offers examples of printing and drawing on many different surfaces, including this piece of Masi or Tapa cloth from the Bismarck archipelago, off New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The work of art was made in the early twentieth century and is shown in comparison with Pablo Picasso’s painting made around the same time.

“Generally, to make bark cloth, a woman would harvest the inner bark of the paper mulberry (a flowering tree). The inner bark is then pounded flat, with a wooden beater or ike, on an anvil, usually made of wood. In Eastern Polynesia (Hawai’i), bark cloth was created with a felting technique and designs were pounded into the cloth with a carved beater. In Samoa, designs were sometimes stained or rubbed on with wooden or fiber design tablets. In Hawai’i patterns could be applied with stamps made out of bamboo, whereas stencils of banana leaves or other suitable materials were used in Fiji. Bark cloth can also be undecorated, hand decorated, or smoked as is seen in Fiji. Design illustrations involved geometric motifs in an overall ordered and abstract patterns.”–Dr. Caroline Klarr

See an example: Sara Featherstone Robinson, Hina-Malama, moon-goddess of the Polynesian Islands: a tapa story woven from ravelings of old Polynesian myths and chants (Berkeley, Calif. [1926]). Binding note:    Illus tapa cloth wrap. Brown title and illus. Cotsen Children’s Library (CTSN) Pams / Eng 20 / Box 37 31533

Cabinet d’arts graphiques at the Musée d’Orsay

The collection of the Musée d’Orsay on Rue de la Légion d’Honneur focuses on arts from the second half of the 19th century. François Mitterrand inaugurated the new museum in December of 1986 but the archive and the library were created before the museum opened to the public. Extensive resources are freely accessible to researchers working on the period working between 1848 and 1914.

One of the highlights in the Cabinet d’arts graphiques is the record of the kickstarter-type campaign to acquire Gustave Courbet’s enormous painting The Artist’s Studio, one of his most mysterious composition.

“It’s the whole world coming to me to be painted,” he declared. “On the right, all the shareholders, by that I mean friends, fellow workers, art lovers. On the left is the other world of everyday life, the masses, wretchedness, poverty, wealth, the exploited and the exploiters, people who make a living from death.”

Many patrons, artists, writers, and other friends contributed funds and recorded their own name on the subscription list (seen to the left). Happily the campaign was successful.
Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), The Artist’s Studio, a real allegory summing up seven years of my artistic and moral life, between 1854 and 1855. Oil on canvas. Paris, musée d’Orsay© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay)

It was good to see the rooms in the museum before the curators, registrars, archivists, and others move down the block in approximately two years to a beautiful townhouse along the Seine.

Visit to the INHA

The only original facade remaining at the Site Richelieu de la Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). Below are personifications of two departments, manuscripts on the left and prints & drawings on the right.

This morning a small group visited the Library of the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), at 58 rue de Richelieu, where INHA offers its services and its collections in the Labrouste Reading Room within the BnF Richelieu. Built for the national library by the architect Henri Labrouste between 1860 and 1866, these prestigious spaces have been under renovation since 2011 and only reopened at the end of 2016. Note the use of delicate cast iron columns and enormous windows to provide natural light, as Labrouste would not allow gas light in the room.

Created in 2001, the INHA revived the project of the fashion designer and patron Jacques Doucet (1853-1929) who, by founding the Library of Art and Archaeology in Paris in 1908, dreamed of building an institute dedicated to resources and to research. The INHA is responsible for developing academic activity and contributing to international academic cooperation in the fields of art history and heritage.

INHA now includes collections of the Bibliothèque centrale des musées nationaux and a selection of the print collections from the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, totaling more than 1,800,000 documents, 230,000 open-access books, and the compacity to welcome up to 411 readers. The library of the École nationale des Chartes and the special collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France remain on site. The INHA also works in collaboration with Parisian establishments such as the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée des Arts décoratifs and the École du Louvre.

This is the small area of the Labrouste room used by the collection of prints and photographs for general researchers while its permanent rooms are being renovated. For restricted materials, arrangements are made in a part-time shared space under staff supervision. Prints and photographs should be complete and reopen in another two years.

For our visit, an amazing selection of treasures were shown, including drawings by Albrecht Dürer, a Victor Hugo family photography album, and a selection of the thematic albums the BnF created to classify its early collections.

The Parthenon of Books

This weekend, the second half of Documenta 14, entitled “Learning from Athens,” opens in Kassel, Germany following the exhibits in Athens, Greece, which have been on view since April. One of the highlights will be the installation of Marta Minujin’s “The Parthenon of Books” on the Friedrichsplatz opposite the Fridericianum, a recreation of her 1983 “El Partenón de libros” shown in Buenos Aires.

The books came from a public call last October to donate nearly 100,000 formerly or currently banned books from all over the world. At the end of the exhibition, the books will be removed and given to visitors, returning them to circulation.

Minujin’s installation commemorates the 2,000 books that were burned by the Nazis at this location in Kassel on May 19, 1933, during the so-called “Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist” (Campaign against the Un-German Spirit). Press information reminds us also that “in 1941, the Fridericianum—which was being used as a library at the time—was engulfed in flames during an Allied bombing attack, and another collection of about 350,000 books was lost.” The list of forbidden books was compiled in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Nikola Roßbach, guest professor Dr. Florian Gassner, and students of the University of Kassel.

Several other works focus on books, including Maria Eichhorn’s installation of books stolen from Jewish collections, still held in the state libraries of Berlin.

Welcome Baltimore Museum Friends

Members of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Print, Drawing & Photograph Society (PDPS) traveled to Princeton on Saturday to visit our campus and collections. (Sorry we missed a few for the group picture above.) Treasures were pulled from the Princeton University Art Museum’s Prints and Drawings; the East Asian Library and the Gest Collection; and the Graphic Arts Collection.

Special thanks go to Rena Hoisington, Curator and Department Head, for her wonderful planning, and to Jay Fisher, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs; Ann Shafer, Associate Curator; and Morgan Dowty, Curatorial Assistant.

There are only a few more weeks left to see their exhibition: Off the Shelf: Modern & Contemporary Artists’ Books, closing June 25, 2017. The show presents more than 130 rarely shown artists’ books and related prints by more than 50 renowned artists, including Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Grace Hartigan, David Hockney, and Ed Ruscha. Stephen King, Frank O’Hara, and Robert Creeley are among the more than 30 authors represented.

For more information about exhibitions, programs, courses, and resources on artists’ books in the Greater Baltimore region, visit Book Arts Baltimore.

Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Highlights

On Friday, May 5, Martin Heijdra, Director of the East Asian Library and Setsuko Noguchi, Japanese Studies Librarian in the East Asian Library presented a general introduction to the rare books in the East Asian Collections for students, faculty, and staff.  They welcomed special requests and tried to select titles based upon the audience. New Japanese acquisitions were a particular focus.


Martin Heijdra showed an early example of four color printing.

Setsuko Noguchi shared the epic multi-volume Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike) with elaborate gold endpapers and illumination.


We were given a small clue to identifying Korean, Chinese, and Japanese books. The Korean, on the bottom, often has five equidistant holes sewn around the spine. The Chinese book, in the middle, often has four hole sewing at uneven intervals. The Japanese volume at the top is stab sewn through four equidistant holes.


Learn the history of silver mining in Japan told through an elegant Japanese scroll.


This working manuscript for Pei wen yun fu is dated between 1662 and 1722 (and might be called a Chinese Webster’s Dictionary).


Shaka Hasso Monogatari (The Eight Lives of the Buddha) with the original woodblock for two leaves, image and text. The block is double-sided with another image and text printed from the verso.



Pacho Velez, Princeton Arts Fellow

Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, George Bush all wave to the press corps. Film still from “The Reagan Show.”

This coming weekend offers two chances to see the new documentary The Reagan Show by Pacho Velez, 2015-17 Princeton Arts Fellow and Sierra Pettengill at the Montclair Film Festival.

According to the festival site, Velez and Pettengil “mine the past for contemporary relevance and come up trumps in The Reagan Show, a film about a prolific actor’s defining role: Leader of the Free World. It uses the Reagan administration’s internal documentation to capture the spectacle of American might at its acme, exploring the relationship between the media and those in power as they participate in the collaborative act of image making. Told entirely through a largely unseen trove of archival footage, the film captures the pageantry, pathos, and charisma that followed the original performer/president from Hollywood to the nation’s capital.”

Thanks to the success of the project at the Tribeca Film Festival “Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American theatrical and streaming rights to The Reagan Show, with CNN Films landing North American broadcast rights… The pic will hit theaters June 30, with a July 4 VOD bow to follow. CNN will air the docu after those windows.”

Pacho Velez works at the intersection of ethnography, contemporary art, and political documentary. His last film, Manakamana (co-directed with Stephanie Spray) won a Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival. It played around the world, including at the Whitney Biennial and the Toronto International Film Festival. His earlier film and theater work have been presented at venues such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm, and on Japanese National Television.

Pacho Velez – Princeton Arts Fellow from Lewis Center for the Arts on Vimeo.

A Yellow Pencil Award

Last fall, six postage stamps were issued by the Royal Mail in Great Britain to mark the centenary of Agatha Christie’s first crime novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles. They also marked the 40th anniversary of her death.



Last week, the stamps were awarded a distinguished Yellow Pencil from the D&AD in a London ceremony.


The winning agency, Studio Sutherl&, were challenged to design a stamp equal to Christie’s mystery career and so art director Jim Sutherland and illustrator Neil Webb created stamps with hidden secrets in the form of microtext, UV ink, and thermochromic ink. Using a magnifying glass or UV light or body heat, these clues are revealed to help answer each book’s mystery.

The Special Stamps depict key scenes and principal characters from six iconic novels:
Murder on the Orient Express; The Mysterious Affair at Styles; The Body in the Library; And Then There Were None; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd; and A Murder is Announced.

Studio Sutherl& was the most awarded design agency this year, winning eight Pencils overall, including two Yellow, one for its work creating limited edition Agatha Christie stamps for Royal Mail and another for its work with the book Somos Brasil.

Agatha Christie (1890-1976), Curtain & The mysterious affair at Styles (New York: Dodd, Mead, c1975). Firestone PR6005.H66 xC8 1975

Gillett G. Griffin Memorial Lecture

The Gillett G. Griffin Memorial Lecture Series is being established in honor of our former colleague Gillett Good Griffin (1942-2016), who served as graphic arts curator within Rare Books and Special Collections from 1952 to 1966. Although officially the collection’s second curator, he was the first to establish a place for the graphic arts collection inside Firestone Library, along with galleries and study rooms where students were regularly and warmly welcomed. Gillett’s passion for collecting began almost 70 years ago while he was a student at Yale University School of Art. His personal collection of Japanese prints, for instance, was begun as an undergraduate and later, when Gillett generously donated them to Princeton University Library, formed the basis for the department’s collection.

When we received the sad news of Gillett’s passing in June 2016, we wanted to find a way to not only commemorate the man but also his passion for bringing objects in the collection directly to the public and the public to the collection. To that end, we decided to select one of the great treasures acquired by Gillett for an in-depth investigation presented in a public memorial lecture.

In 2017, the inaugural lecture will be delivered by Dr. Sara Stevenson, former chief curator at the National Galleries of Scotland. For 36 years, Dr. Stevenson was responsible for building and developing the Scottish National Photography Collection and she continues to publish, her most recent publication entitled: Scottish Photography: The First Thirty Years. Her lecture, “The London Circle: Early Explorations of Photography,” will highlight the Richard Willats album of early paper photography purchased for the graphic arts collection by Gillett.

The lecture will be held on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 3:00 in the Friends Center followed by a reception. The event is free and open to the public.